While thumbing through a freshly delivered copy of Dirt Rag magazine last week, I encountered some “screed” on the state of singlespeeds written by fellow scribe and mountain biking buddy Eric McKeegan. In short, Eric said “singlespeeds = dead”. According to Eric, what used to be a thriving tribe of counterculture misfits is no more. They’ve moved on.
In the words of Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, “allow me to retort”. Singlespeeds aren’t dead. They just smell funny. What do I mean by this? So long as bicycles exist as a thing, singlespeeds exist as a thing. While Eric may be onto something when talking about a singlespeed tribe or culture, that’s not the reason why I started singlespeeding. The state of singlespeeds shouldn’t be judged based on the fleeting counterculture that surrounds them.
For me riding a singlespeed is just another tool in the toolbox of bicycles. I don’t only ride a singlespeed. Nowadays I’m riding my geared full suspension bike just as much or more because the brutally steep terrain around Downieville requires it. People like to jibe me when I post a picture of my Ripley with gears under my ASS Instagram handle. I have no shame admitting I’ve got more geared bikes in my garage than ones without derailleurs. If that makes me a hypocrite, then I’ll own up to it fully. The road of life is paved with hypocrisy.
There’s a fine line between being stubborn and stupid. Through extensive experience, I know the line well, which is why I am more selective these days about bringing my singlespeed to a place like Downieville. In the words of the great Greg Williams of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, “the only reason why you’d ride a singlespeed around Downieville is if you recently got divorced or declared bankruptcy.”
I don’t ride a singlespeed because “fuck you”. I don’t ride a singlespeed because it pairs well with leather jackets, tattoos, punk rock and getting hammered all the time. I ride a singlespeed because I’m a faster climber on one. I ride a singlespeed because I love the sensation of going downhill without a chain incessantly banging on my chainstay. I ride a singlespeed because I prefer the worry-free, low-maintenance benefits of a bike with no shifters or derailleurs. I ride a singlespeed because I cherish the looks people give after telling them I did a 50-mile ride with 8,000 feet of climbing on a bike with no gears. I ride a singlespeed because it pays homage to the original one-speed velocipede invented more than 130 years ago. And yes, I ride a singlespeed because it’s the best release for a wellspring of anger.
For me, singlespeeding has never been about looking cool, being cool or hanging out with other people who think they’re cool. Last year I spoke up about the shitshow that was Singlespeed World Championships in Alaska, and a good friend who was also in attendance said, “you shouldn’t have talked bad about SSWC, because you’re causing a rift in the tribe.”
Tribe? What tribe? I ride a singlespeed for me. Nobody else. Single. Speed. It should come as no coincidence that I prefer to ride my singlespeed alone. I don’t need a tribe to be able to ride my bike. So when I hear singlespeeds are dead, I shrug my shoulders. The anti-establishment counterculture long associated with singlespeeds may be dying, but who cares? If that’s the only reason why you choose to ride a singlespeed, then you shouldn’t have gotten a singlespeed in the first place. Go buy a fat bike or something. I guarantee you that singlespeeds will still be around long after fat bikes = dead.
Perhaps Eric thinks singlespeeds are dead because TheAngry Singlespeeder ceases to exist as a person on Facebook any longer. Three months ago the Facebook Gestapo shut down my user account, stating they required a valid government ID to get my account reactivated. Since I don’t have any ID validating my pseudonym, naturally I was up a stump. Even though I sent them an ID with my real name numerous times to work out the situation, they’ve continually ignored and deleted my support requests with no explanation.
So if you’re reading this and wondering why we’re not Facebook friends any more, it’s not because I blocked you. It’s not because singlespeeds are dead. It’s just because the folks at Facebook suck at communicating. Nearly 10,000 friends and followers are now in the dark because TheAngry has disappeared from the world of Facebook. But as my literary hero Mark Twain famously said, “the report of my death was an exaggeration”. The same goes for singlespeeds. Now if anyone knows somebody high up at Facebook who can help resurrect TheAngry, drop me a line.
Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at [email protected]. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.